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September 27, 2005

Greek (s)Wordplay

Sophocles, Oedipus the King (Finish) -- Drama as Literature (EL 250)

Second Messenger: "The full horror of what happened, you can not know, for you did not see it; but I, who did, will tell you as clearly as I can how she met her death."

When the Second Messenger said this, all I could think was back when Dr. Jerz told us that in Greek theater death was only talked about and not acted out. Why did the Greeks fulfill their cultural curiosity of violence with words instead of action? By only talking about it I suppose it kept the whole idea more philosophical-- but still, in a culture that stressed "everything in moderation," wouldn't uncensored violence have a place? I suppose the description of Oedipus' gauging his eyes out is completely uncensored, but then why were they so against acting it out?

I think this play is interesting, but I cannot figure out its message was. Trust your fortune teller? The idea of killing one's father and marrying one's mother is worthy of an episode of Springer... I'm glad our society has reached a level of idealism that rivals the ancient Greeks. I was disturbed by the ending, because I don't think that Oedipus was necessarily "wrong." He definetly illustrated how damaging "hubris" can be, but he wasn't a bad guy.

(Also, I was watching t.v. and some guy alluded to Oedipus marrying his mother when describing his current situation-- I was really excited 'cause I knew what he meant...lol)

Posted by DavidDenninger at September 27, 2005 09:43 PM


I think the play's message is: never go to a fortune teller. Ever.

Posted by: Kayla Sawyer at September 27, 2005 10:45 PM

According to Aristotle's Poetics, a tragedy must be plot-propelled and not rely on spectacle to convey its message or produce the desired effect. The play is suppose to be a work or poetry, good spectacle is a result of a good stagecraft, not good writing.

"The spectacle has, indeed, an emotional attraction of its own, but, of all the parts, it is the least artistic, and connected least with the art of poetry. For the power of tragedy, we may be sure, is felt even apart from representation and actors. Besides, the production of spectacular effects depends more on the art of the stage machinist than on that of the poet."


Check out the website to get more on the basic ideas Aristotle had about tragedy. it has everything from reversal and recognition to simple and complex plots. You'll see Oedipus Rex fits his criteria for good poetry extremely well.

Posted by: Lorin Schumacher at September 28, 2005 12:24 AM

David, I'm not going to pretend that I know anything important about Greek Theatre. But I may have an idea as to why they didn't act out the death scenes. It could be simply because they had more respect to the women and children in the audience. They may not have wanted to show this to those naive to see it. I don't know if there are any facts to back that up, but I just thought it was worth mentioning.

Posted by: Andy LoNigro at September 28, 2005 02:32 AM

Don't you love when something you learned in class comes in handy in real life? To this day, whenever Oedipus comes up, I always have a flashback to my work on Freudian literary theory.

Posted by: Katie Lambert at September 29, 2005 09:12 PM

Lorin, in fact Aristotle repeatedly cites Oedipus as an example of a tragic hero. Either you had a great teacher in high school or you've got great online research skills. Or both!

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at September 29, 2005 09:26 PM

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